Transplantation of Human Neural Cells for Treatment of Neurodegenerative Conditions

Researchers at Neuralstem, Inc. in Germantown, Maryland developed EP Grant Patent 1814979B1 to treat neurodegenerative diseases through stem cell transplantation.

Terms to Know

To understand the implications of this patent, consider the following terminology.

  • GABA is an acronym for gamma-aminobutryic acid, the principal inhibitory compound in an adult's central nervous system.
  • In vitro is a process that takes place outside of a living organism, such as in a test tube or Petri dish.
  • Neural stem cells are regenerative, pluripotent cells that create the neurons of the central nervous system. These cells also differentiate into multiple cell types, making them useful for the treatment of several diseases.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders is a range of conditions that affect the human brain, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Unlike cerebral palsy, these conditions are degenerative and get worse over time.
  • Stem cell transplantation is the use of stem cells for the treatment of diseases such as cancer, as well as neurodegenerative conditions.
Patent Background

The methods in this patent describe ways to prepare neural stem cells for the treatment of certain disorders. This treatment involves the transplantation of these stem cells into areas of the human body where they would be beneficial. Researchers claim the correct preparation of these stem cells has the potential to treat common narrow degenerative conditions, which they define by the deterioration of neurons over time. Unfortunately, it is not a treatment option for cerebral palsy because it is not a neurodegenerative condition. Neurodegenerative disorders are usually diagnosed later in life, as is the case with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Neuron degeneration is often the result of disease, genetics, or traumatic injury.

Treatment for neurodegenerative diseases is challenging, and the research remains unclear. As a result, many are terminal and no cure exists. However, general studies have suggested that fetal stem cells can help regenerate, preserve, and possibly reverse the effects of certain conditions. For example, in vitro stem cell grafting into an injured spinal cord could revive previously destroyed cells.

However, researchers have found additional challenges when treating neurodegenerative conditions that are present over a whole body, a large amount of tissue, or an entire organ or organ system. For example, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS (more commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease) is one the deadliest neurodegenerative diseases because it involves the progressive death of neurons down the spinal cord. Researchers cannot yet perform cell grafting for this condition due to how expansive it is.

Currently doctors cannot even treat more localized conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, with a stem cell graft or transplantation. This is because, while the disease is local, the area that requires treatment is much larger then grafting technology can reach. As a result, stem cell transplantation can be quite limited.

There is a need to drastically improve the methods of treating neurodegenerative conditions. This patent aims to close the gap.

Patent Claims

The patent makes several claims to specific scientific methods of treating neurodegenerative diseases. All these claims involve one base method for treating neurodegenerative diseases; an in vitro method of preparing neural stem cells to generate neurons for the patient's spinal cord. These stem cells must expand from one cell from a mammal. Scientists must prepare stem cells in such a way that encourages growth, which involves a number of growth factors, stem cell sources, and neurons.

Patent Summary

The patented methods of treating neurodegenerative conditions involve the transparent orientation of nerve stem cells produced in vitro through the process of expansion. Cell expansion involves taking one starting stem cell, placing it into a Petri dish or other culture container, and allowing the cells to grow organically.

The invention includes specific methods for:

  • Identifying a donor
  • Isolating the stem cell from a block of tissue
  • Expanding the stem cells in the culture environment
  • Preparing the cells for the treatment of the neurodegenerative condition

After the identification of the donors, the invention also outlined a process of preparing the stem cells in vitro. This process involves taking a stem cell from mammalian tissue and concentrating the expanded population within the culture environment. Within the vessel, the stem cells will expand by the introduction of at least one growth factor.

After the creation of the stem cells, the researchers suggest that upon transplantation, they can provide an appropriate amount of neurons to integrate themselves within the body's nervous system. From there, these cells can reduce the effects of neurodegenerative disease on the person.

The patent suggests that medical professionals can supply the stem cells to an injured neural area to reduce the effects of trauma. The treatment may also be able to restore motor function and diseases that destroy motor neurons. In addition, the neural stem cells can release traffic molecules to protect degenerative neurons and increase their lifespans.

These treatment methods also have the potential to reduce the effects of multiple symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases and central nervous system damage. However, additional research is necessary. Hopefully, this research will offer more treatments for development and possible cures for terminal neurodegenerative diseases.